DETROIT (March 26, 12:20 p.m. ET) — Chrysler Group's purchasing boss says Fiat suppliers likely will win business in the United States as Chrysler introduces Fiat-based vehicles.
But Dan Knott, 51, Chrysler's head of purchasing, says Chrysler's current suppliers will get a fair shot at the work and should have added opportunities to pick up Fiat work in Europe.
The first Chrysler Group vehicles on a Fiat platform will be the 2013 Dodge Dart compact, which will be launched next month at Chrysler's factory in Belvidere, Ill., and the replacement for the Jeep Liberty SUV.
Assembly of the Liberty replacement is scheduled to begin in the first half of next year at Chrysler's Toledo North plant. The plant is undergoing $500 million in renovations.
“I think you'll see some significant growth in terms of suppliers who only had one of us now having both of us in the next two or three years,” Knott said.
Chrysler's 2009 product plan says at least eight compact and mid-sized vehicles will share Fiat's CUS-Wide platform, including the Dart and the Liberty replacement. A slightly slimmer version of the same platform was used by Fiat for its well received Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Knott said Chrysler turned to some suppliers that had worked with Fiat in Europe on the compact Giulietta to take advantage of their experience.
“A fair number of the platform folks that were already on the Giulietta picked up some of that business,” Knott said.
One company that looks to benefit from the alliance is Magneti Marelli SpA, the Italian supplier that is part of Fiat Group. Magneti Marelli produces lighting, instrument clusters, infotainment modules, shock absorbers and powertrain components, and is a supplier to the Dodge Dart.
CEO Eugenio Razelli said the alliance between Chrysler and Fiat “is a great opportunity to have a much faster growth in this market and we are already witnessing an increase in the OEM business in North America.”
Knott said he no longer sees a wide price gap between Chinese auto parts suppliers and those located elsewhere, and that he won't chase low-cost parts at the expense of quality.
“I have not seen significant gross differences between Chinese suppliers and other suppliers. Chinese suppliers have won business for various reasons, some of them due to economic reasons, some of them due to quality,” Knott told Automotive News. “I won't source based solely on economics.”
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